Harmony of the Gospel (Conservative Version) shorter form Chapters 50-56

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Introduction (Main article)



Chapter 50 Historical texts

In the autumn of the year A.D. 66, Nero undertook a long visit to Greece which would keep him away from Rome for fifteen months, and during his absence he entrusted the consulate to one of his freedmen.

Flavius Vespasian, the proconsul of Africa, accompanied Nero to Greece. On this trip Nero engaged in new displays of his artistic prowess, and he walked about garbed as an ascetic, barefoot and with flowing hair. His enthusiasm for Greek culture also prompted him to free a number of Greek cities in honor of their glorious past.

According to tradition, Antipas of Pergamum, a personal disciple of the Apostle John, was made Episcopos of the Christian Assembly of Pergamum by John during the reign of Nero. His witness to the Lord Jesus Christ by word and deed and miracles of healing began turning the people of Pergamum from offering sacrificial worship to idols that can neither see, nor hear, nor move, nor breathe. The pagan priests complained vehemently that he was misleading the people by causing them to commit apostasy from their faith in their ancestral gods by his personal example of moral and spiritual virtue, the firmness of his faith in his God, and his constant preaching about Jesus the Anointed One. When they demanded that he stop, he refused. He would not submit to their demand to stop preaching Christ and offer sacrifice to the idols.

While attending Nero in Achaia, Vespasian was indiscreet enough to fall asleep at the emperor’s artistic performance, but this did not prevent his appointment by Nero in February of A.D. 67 to the command against the Jewish rebellion in Judea, the cause of two disastrous Roman defeats in the previous year. When Nero learned what had happened to his forces in Judea, he sent Vespasian to assume command in Syria and subdue the Jewish rebels. For such an appointment Vespasian was regarded as a safe man; a highly competent general, but of the obscure Flavii family; one whose humble origins made it almost inconceivable, as long as Nero was alive, that he would challenge Nero’s government if he should win victories. This appointment was most exceptional, because Judea had never before been garrisoned by even one legionary army, and Vespasian was now given three legions with a large force of auxiliary troops. Vespasian immediately sent his son Titus to bring up the legion Legio quinta decima Apollinaris, Apollo’s Fifteenth Legion, from Alexandria, while he proceeded to Syria and collected from neighboring rulers the Roman forces and auxiliary troops stationed there. Seeking to be thought superior to his station, the young man himself constantly displayed his grace and energy in war, inspiring willing obedience by his courtesy and affability, often mixing with the common soldiers while working or marching without compromising his dignity as general. Thus, Titus, after service in Britain and Germany, himself commanded a legion under his father, Vespasian, in Judea in 67.

Vespasian then conducted two successful campaigns, in 67 and 68, winning almost all of Judea except Jerusalem. A distinguished Jewish prisoner of Vespasian’s, Josephus by name, a general in Judea and governor before his capture, insisted that he would soon be released by the very man who had now put him in fetters, who would then be emperor.

Vespasian had married one Flavia Domitilla, who bore his sons Titus and Domitian and a daughter, Flavia Domitilla. But both his wife and daughter died before he became emperor. He then returned to an earlier mistress, called Caenis, who had been a freedwoman of Antonia, sister-in-law to the emperor Tiberius.

Vespasian’s older son Titus was himself the beneficiary of considerable intelligence and talent, endowments carefully cultivated at every step of his career, from his early education to his command of a legion under his father. He gradually became virtually a partner with his father in his career, supporting him by any means he found useful, and among other skills revealed his talent as a forger. To underscore the consequences of rebellion against his father by the punishments inflicted on Jewish prisoners, he revealed an approving sympathy for policies of brutality and humiliation, most evident in the way in which Jews were thrown to wild beasts or forced to fight each other in shows for public entertainment.

His younger son Domitian from his earliest years was consistently discourteous, of a forward, presumptuous disposition, and extravagant both in his words and actions. During the reign of Nero, when Caenis, his father’s concubine, on her return from Istria, offered him a kiss, as she had been accustomed to do, he imperiously presented her his hand to kiss. Again, later, being indignant that Vespasian’s brother’s son-in-law should be waited on by servants dressed in white, he exclaimed,

“Too many princes are not good.”
ouk agathon polykoiraniae.

In February of A.D. 68, Nero returned to Rome, and in the four months that followed, his delirious pretensions as both an artist and a religious worshiper aroused the enmity not only of the Senate and those patricians who had been dispossessed by him but also of the Italian middle class, who had conservative moral views and furnished most of the officers of the army. Even the common soldiers of the legions were scandalized to see the descendant of Caesar, Emperor Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, better known as Nero, publicly perform on stage the parts not only of ancient Greek heroes but of far lower characters. Gaius Julius Vindex, the Praetorian governor of the province of Lugdunensis in Gaul, was to say, “I have seen him on stage, playing pregnant women and slaves about to be executed.”

Then, after almost fourteen years of abusive misrule, the earth rid herself of Nero.

The tumultuous period began in March of A.D. 68 with a revolt against the unpopular taxation policies of the already unpopular Nero. The first move was by the Gauls under the legate who first rebelled against him, Julius Vindex, the governor of Lugdunensis in Gaul. Nero heard of the Gallic revolt on the anniversary of his mother’s murder. At the news of revolts brewing throughout the empire Nero only laughed and indulged in further megalomaniacal displays instead of taking action. He is reported to have said, “I have only to appear and sing to have peace once more in Gaul.”

Roman Governor Servius Sulpicius Galba joined in the revolt. Galba, who had been appointed in A.D. 60 as governor of Nearer Spain in the neighboring province of Tarraconensis and had served in that post for eight years, was holding assizes at Carthago Nova, New Carthage, when news reached him of the revolt in the Gallic provinces. It came in the form of an appeal for help sent by the governor of Aquitania in Gaul, which was followed by another invitation from Julius Vindex, the governor of Lugdunensis (perhaps prompted by Galba), asking whether he would take the lead in rescuing humanity from Nero and head a rebellion against him. Believing that the emperor Nero was planning his assassination, Galba accepted the suggested invitation without much delay, but with some measure of both confident expectation and fear.

General Galba, taking his place on the tribunal, in a most stirring and impassioned speech deplored the present state of the empire. He was at once hailed as imperator, and he accepted the honor, announcing that he represented the Senate and People of Rome.

He ordered the courts closed and began raising legions and auxiliary troops from the native population to increase his existing command, which was one legion, two squadrons of cavalry, and three infantry cohorts. Next he chose the most distinguished and intelligent provincials to serve in a kind of senate, to which matters of importance could be referred whenever necessary. He also picked certain young equites, Roman knights instead of ordinary troops, to guard his sleeping quarters, and although these ranked as volunteer infantrymen they still wore the gold rings proper to their condition as knights. He then recruited an additional new legion in Spain, the Legio septima Gemina, the Twins' Seventh Legion, and built up a large following in many other regions of the empire; even though in May of 68 Vindex himself was defeated in a battle with the Rhine armies of Upper Germany engaging in operations under Lucius Verginius Rufus against Vindex and the Gauls, and the war in Gaul ended.

Then Vindex called upon everyone in the provinces to unite energetically in the common cause of rebellion, and Marcus Salvius Otho joined the rebellion against Nero. Otho, formerly the husband of Poppaea, had been sent from Rome in A.D. 58 to govern the province of Lusitania, and for ten years he had ruled this province with integrity. Then, in 68, Otho also joined the rebellion against Nero led by Galba, governor of the neighboring province of Tarraconensis, and he promised the Praetorians a bribe from Galba for supporting his claim to the throne.

At about this time a ring of ancient design was discovered in the fortifications of the city that Galba had chosen as his headquarters, the engraved gem representing Nike, Victory, raising a trophy. Soon afterward an Alexandrian ship drifted into Dertosa, now Tortosa, loaded with arms, but neither helmsman, crew nor passengers were found aboard her; and this left no doubt in any of their minds that this must be a just and righteous war, favored by the gods. A more prudent man would have asked why a ship so heavily armed had no surviving helmsman, crew or passengers aboard to guide her. Recall the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said to Peter,

“All who take the sword shall perish by the sword.”

No living soul was aboard.

Meanwhile, on the fifth day of the month Daesius, which is the third Jewish lunar month Sivan, the time of the wheat harvest and Pentecost, in May and June, Vespasian removed his forces from Caesarea and marched against those places in Judea which had not yet been overthrown. So he went up to the mountainous country, and took all the places, except Herodium, and Masada, and Machaerus, which were in the possession of the robbers, so that Jerusalem was now the Romans' present aim. All of Galilee was conquered by Vespasian’s forces together with Agrippa’s armies despite the resistance of the Jewish rebel forces.

The details of calamities from assaults by the sword and other means, which had overwhelmed the whole nation, the extreme miseries to which the inhabitants of Judea were particularly subjected, the vast numbers of men, women and children who perished by the sword, famine, and innumerable other forms of death can be essentially condensed and summarized by any competent historian from a multitude of ancient sources describing what took place at that time.

Meanwhile, the rebellion of the provincial governor Julius Vindex at Lyon in Gaul, and Servius Sulpicius Galba in Spain, and others on the eastern frontier had spread—the revolt had spread and the legions had made Galba emperor. When news arrived in Rome of the revolt also of Galba and the Spanish provinces, Nero fainted. He had meanwhile become so universally loathed that no abusive insult could be found by the people that was bad enough for him.

A plot was laid against Nero by Caius Nymphidius Sabinus and Ofonius Tigellinus, who proved to be his two most untrustworthy freedmen. Nymphidius Sabinus, the Praetorian prefect, encouraged the imperial palace guard to desert Nero for a large reward. The Praetorian Guard abandoned him, and he was quietly deserted by all his guards. His freedmen left to embark on the ships he kept in readiness at Ostia, the port of Rome.

When a dispatch brought news that other armies had also revolted, Nero hesitated, and then, shocked at finding that his bodyguard had deserted him, he fled Rome. Faced with the disloyalty of his army, the Praetorian Guard, and the Senate, he was obliged to flee the city, and ran away with four of his most trusty freedmen. Finally, he was declared a public enemy by the Senate. The Senate condemned Nero to die a slave’s death: under the whip and on a cross.

Meanwhile, on the advice of Phaon, an imperial freedman, he fled to Phaon’s own suburban villa. There, a letter arrived from the Senate declaring Nero a public enemy, and saying that he would be punished in ancient style. He then learned that “ancient style” meant that the executioners would strip their victim naked, push or wedge his head into a forked wooden restraint, and then flog him to death with heavy sticks, rods. He made his companions promise, whatever happened, to not let his head be cut off, but have him buried in one piece. When horses approached, Nero’s last words were said to be, “What an artist dies in me!

Then, with the help of an eager slave, his secretary Epaphroditus, he stabbed himself in the throat, and committed suicide, and slew himself in the suburbs of Rome. He died with his eyes bulging from their sockets.

Meanwhile, Galba’s rebellion had nearly collapsed, suddenly, without the least warning. News had not yet arrived that Nero was dead. As he approached the station where one of his cavalry troops was quartered, the men felt some measure of shame for their defection from their emperor and thought to turn against Galba. Galba kept them at their posts only by a great effort.

Again, he was nearly murdered on his way to the baths. He had to pass down a narrow corridor lined by a company of slaves presented to him by one of Nero’s freedmen, obviously with some treachery in view. But while they plucked up their courage by urging one another not to “miss this opportunity”, one of his staff took the trouble to ask, “What ‘opportunity’ is this?”.

Later they confessed under torture.

Galba’s political embarrassments were increased by the death of Vindex, a blow so heavy that it almost turned him to despair and suicide. But messengers arrived from Rome with the news that Nero too was dead, and that the citizens had all sworn obedience to himself.

Nero had been Emperor of Rome from A.D. 54 to eight June of 68. His request to be buried in one piece was granted. His body was laid on his funeral pyre dressed in gold-embroidered white robes. The funeral cost two hundred thousand sesterces. His old nurses Ecloge and Alexandria, helped Acte, his mistress, carry the remains to the Pincian Hill, which is visible from the Campus Martius. His coffin was of white porphyry and stood in the Domitian family tomb, overshadowed by an altar of Luna marble.

The pagan writer Apollonius of Tyana, a contemporary of Nero, specifically styled Nero a “beast”. He is quoted by the biographer Philostratus as saying:

“In my travels, which have been wider than ever man yet accomplished, I have seen many, many wild beasts of Arabia and India; but this beast, that is commonly called a Tyrant, I know not how many heads it has, nor if it be crooked of claw, and armed with horrible fangs.”
“And of wild beasts you cannot say that they were ever known to eat their own mother, but Nero has gorged himself on this diet.”

According to Suetonius, he had stabbed himself in the throat with a dagger. But according to another version recounted by Tacitus, and regarded by most historians as almost certainly fiction, after fleeing Rome he reached the Greek islands.

Following the emperor Nero’s death in June of 68, while Galba was engaged in seizing the throne, Titus, the son of Vespasian, was energetic in promoting his father’s candidacy for the imperial crown.

After the Emperor Nero was assassinated, a period of struggle erupted, with multiple claimants to the throne vying for the emperorship. To his subjects in general, Nero had been a tyrant, and the revolt his misrule provoked sparked a series of civil wars that for a time threatened the survival of the Roman Empire and caused widespread misery. When the Acts of Nero’s reign were reversed after his death, an exception was made regarding the persecution of the Christians, and they continued to be persecuted.

Nero’s death in 68 marked the end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, which had ruled since the beginning of the empire under Julius Caesar. With his death the line of Caesars became extinct, so Galba dropped the title of governor and assumed that of Caesar. Already the legate of Spain, his legions had declared him the emperor, and he returned out of Spain to Rome. Accompanied by Otho, Galba marched on Rome to install himself as emperor. The Praetorian Guard and Senate soon recognized him as well, and he was proclaimed emperor by the Senate. Galba took power and became Emperor of Rome at age seventy-one or seventy-three in A.D. 68, which is 821 A.U.C. by the Roman calendar, ab urbe condita, “from the founding of the city”, the city of Rome.

Meanwhile, all of Galilee was conquered by Vespasian’s forces together with Agrippa’s armies. Now when Vespasian had returned to Caesarea, and was preparing with all his army to march directly on Jerusalem, he heard of Nero’s death. He was informed that Nero was dead after he had reigned thirteen years and eight days. On news of Nero’s death in June of 68 Vespasian stopped fighting against the Jews, and halted, waiting to hear who would be emperor.

This pause was unexpected, and it was accompanied by the fact that at this moment, with his son Titus as intermediary, Vespasian settled certain differences he had had with the neighboring governor of Syria, Gaius Licinius Mucianus. On learning that Galba had acceded to the throne, Vespasian seems to have claimed that further operations against the Jews required a directive from the new emperor, Galba.

Matthew 26:52b

see notes


Chapter 51 Historical texts

Stories of Galba’s cruelty and greed preceded him, and he confirmed this reputation on his entry into Rome. He now wore a commander’s cloak, with a dagger hanging from his neck, and did not put on a toga again before he had accounted first for the men who were plotting further trouble: the Praetorian prefect Nymphidius Sabinus in Rome; Fonteius Capito, who commanded in Germany; and Lucius Clodius Macer, who commanded in Africa. He decimated soldiers who protested his reassigning them to demeaning duty below their privileged rank, he disbanded and dismissed the cohort of Germans who had served as bodyguards for the Caesars with consistent loyalty, and in 68 he appointed Aulus Vitellius imperial governor of Lower Germany. However, Galba’s position was never stable, as other men also claimed the throne almost immediately and the legions did not all swear their allegiance, and he quickly lost the support of the Senate and the armed forces.

He outraged all classes at Rome. Galba had a tablet set up in the forecourt of his house tracing his ancestry back to Jupiter on the male side, and to Pasiphae, Minos’s wife, on the female side. In every way he disappointed and insulted those who labored to please him, usually by expressions of burdened disgust in response to their efforts, and he rewarded outstanding performers who delighted him by handing them gratuities of only a few coins of minor value. It was rumored that when presented with an especially lavish dinner prepared at great expense after hours of labor with utmost care in his honor, he rewarded the efforts of his imperial chef and his staff of attendants with a groan. To the treasurer who had scrupulously labored over an exacting professional abstract of detailed treasury accounts he presented to him as his reward a bowl of beans. When the renowned flautist Canus delighted him with a virtuoso performance on the flute, Galba pressed on him the sum of five denarii. To his subjects in general, Nero had been a tyrant, but now the Roman populace and the Praetorian Guard came to regret that they had lost such a liberal patron. He sentenced men of all ranks to death without trial on the scantiest evidence, and annulled all of Nero’s lavish awards for excellence or favor, letting the beneficiaries keep no more than a tenth part, enlisting the help of fifty equites to ensure that his order was obeyed. When the people demanded punishment for the vilest of all Nero’s assistants, Tigellinus and the eunuch Halotus, Galba gave Halotus a lucrative procuratorship, and published an imperial edict charging the people with unjust hostility toward Tigellinus.

In the eyes of some historians he brought about his own downfall by taking ethical principle over political expediency. Although his advisers were allegedly corrupt, his administration has been characterized by some historians as priggishly upright. Galba’s attempt to cut back Nero’s extravagant spending was unpopular, as was his execution of troops recruited by Nero as well as those of several opponents, including Lucius Clodius Macer, commander in Africa, whose revolt against Nero from Africa had cut off Rome’s grain supply. Though the officers of the army had promised a larger bonus than usual to the soldiers who had pledged their swords to Galba before his arrival in the city, he would not honor this commitment. When he arrived in Rome and found out about the agreement, he refused on principle to pay the soldiers who had helped him attain the throne, believing that soldiers should serve because they are soldiers. He announced, “It is my custom to levy troops, not to buy them.”

This infuriated troops everywhere. He was accused by the soldiers of being a pusillanimous person. He earned particular resentment from the Praetorians by refusing to pay the bribe Otho had promised to them in Galba’s name for supporting his claim to the throne, and by his dismissal of a number of them suspected of being in Nymphidius’s pay.

Those infamous freedmen, Nymphidius and Tigellinus who had occasioned Nero’s death, in no long time were themselves brought to punishment. Galba’s refusal to pay the Praetorians the promised donative led to the assassination of his ally Nymphidius. He ordered Tigellinus to commit suicide, who, knowing he could not escape death, then chose to slit his own throat with a razor.

Galba rewarded the parts of Gaul that had supported Vindex, and thus outraged the legions of Upper Germany, Germania Superior, who had defeated Vindex. The troops in Germany were not friendly to Galba, and Aulus Vitellius, whom Galba had appointed as governor of Lower Germany, Germania Inferior, won them over with generosity. It was also at this time that the Batavian general Julius Civilis in the Rhineland began to sow the seeds of the Batavian Rebellion, for independence from Roman domination. Camps in Upper Germany claimed they had not been rewarded with a bounty for their share in the operations under Verginius Rufus in May of A.D. 68 against Vindex and the Gauls, which put an end to the rebellion. These were the first troops bold enough to withhold their allegiance, taking their oath only in the name of the Senate. They sent a messenger to the Praetorians, requesting them to choose someone who deserved the approval of the whole army.

On one January A.D. 69, the legions of Upper Germany refused the customary vote of allegiance to Galba. On the same day, the legions of Lower Germany refused to swear allegiance and obedience to Galba, and on the next day, two January 69, Vitellius’s men proclaimed him emperor. The armies of Upper Germany, the legions, then joined with the legions of Lower Germany in proclaiming Aulus Vitellius emperor, as well as most of the governors of Spain, Gaul, and Britain, who soon gave him their support as well, and they acclaimed Vitellius as emperor. He then led his troops into Italy.

Historians refer to A.D. 69 as a politically unstable period in the Roman Empire during which four different emperors came to power in the space of a single year, the year of the four emperors. Eight legions of the Rhine on three January had already hailed Aulus Vitellius as emperor and Vitellius was marching to Rome. However, before Vitellius could seize power, a young noble named Marcus Salvius Otho bribed the Praetorian Guard to kill Galba.

On ten January, Galba, not grasping the situation but thinking that the unrest of the Praetorians was due to uncertainty over the succession, responded by bringing into the Praetorian camp a handsome young man whom he highly esteemed, and had singled out from a group of his courtiers, Piso Frugi Licinianus, and appointed him perpetual heir to his name and property, calling him “my son”. It was to win Senatorial support that Galba had chosen as his heir this Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi Licinianus, a scion of a noble Roman family, instead of Otho, who had been his loyal ally. However, in announcing Piso to the Praetorians as his heir, he never said the word “bounty” or “bonus”, thus giving General Marcus Salvius Otho an excellent opportunity to mount his coup d'etat five days later.

Galba’s adoption of Piso came as a shock to Otho, who had expected to secure this good fortune himself. He had expected to be designated Galba’s successor, but when Galba disappointed him by adopting Lucius Piso Licinianus in January of 69, Otho turned on the emperor. After Galba failed to name him his heir, disappointment, resentment and a massive accumulation of debts now prompted him to revolt, and he prepared to seize power, with the help of the Praetorian Guard. He organized a conspiracy among the Praetorian Guard, and won over the Praetorians with the promise of a donative. The one million sesterces just paid him for a stewardship by one of the emperor’s slaves served to finance the undertaking.

He first confided in five of his personal guards, and each of these obtained the cooperation of two others as fellow conspirators. Each of them was paid ten thousand sesterces with the promised addition of fifty thousand more. But while these fifteen recruited a number of assistants, Otho also counted on mass support as soon as he raised the standard of revolt. The Praetorian Guard then shifted their support to Otho.

His first plan was to occupy the Praetorian camp immediately after Piso’s adoption and to capture Galba during dinner at the palace. But he abandoned this because the same cohort happened to be on guard duty as when Gaius Caligula had been assassinated, and again when Nero had been abandoned by them and left to his fate; he felt reluctant to deal their reputation for loyalty a further blow. Unfavorable omens and the warnings of his astrologer Seleucus delayed matters another five days. However, on the morning of the sixth day, Otho posted his fellow conspirators in the Forum at the Golden Milestone near the temple of Saturn while he entered the palace to greet Galba, who kissed him as usual, and attended his sacrifice. The haruspices had finished their report on the omens of the victim, when a freedman arrived with the message “The architects are here”.

This was the agreed signal. Otho excused himself to the emperor, saying that he had arranged to view a house that was for sale, then slipped out of the palace by a back door and hurried to the rendezvous. Another account makes him plead a chill and leave his excuses with the emperor’s attendants, in case anyone should miss him. Whichever account is true, when he had excused himself to Galba, he departed in the kind of closed sedan chair normally used by women and headed for the camp, accompanied by his supporters, but when the pace of the bearers slackened from fatigue he jumped out and began to run. When he paused to lace a shoe, his companions hoisted him on their shoulders and acclaimed him emperor. The street crowds joined the procession as eagerly as if they were sworn accomplices, and Otho reached his headquarters to the sound of hurrahs and the flash of drawn swords. Otho was acclaimed emperor on fifteen January A.D. 69.

Avoiding all rhetorical appeals, he told the troops merely that he would welcome whatever powers they might give him but claim no others. He then had Galba murdered.

Otho dispatched a troop of cavalry to murder both Galba and Piso. Some reported that, just before his death, Galba had shouted out, “What is all this, comrades? I am yours; you are mine!

He even went so far as to promise to pay the troops the bounty Otho had promised them. The Praetorians then murdered him beside the Curtian Lake, in the middle of the marketplace at Rome, and left him lying just as he fell—thus Galba was slain by treachery in the Roman Forum. A private soldier decaptitated the body and brought the head to Otho, who handed it to a crowd of servants and camp boys, and they stuck it on a spear and carried it around scornfully. After murdering Galba the Praetorians also murdered Piso in the Roman Forum on the same day, fifteen January. Galba had ruled for only a few months, from eight June 68 through the first two weeks of January A.D. 69. He had been given authority to rule for only an hour. In the end, the head and trunk of the body were removed to the tomb in Galba’s private gardens beside the Via Aurelia.

The historian Tacitus famously wrote of Galba, “It was everyone’s opinion that he was capable of ruling the empire, had he never ruled.”

The assassination was accomplished on fifteen January and the Senate proclaimed Otho emperor the same day.

see notes


Chapter 52 Historical texts

Toward evening Otho delivered a brief speech to the Senate, claiming to have been picked up in the street and compelled to accept the imperial power, but also promising to respect the people’s sovereign will. From there he proceeded to the palace, where he received false and excessively insincere congratulations and flattery from all present, making no protest even when the crowd called him “Nero”. Suetonius records that Otho added the name Nero as his surname to some of his first certificates and letters to provincial governors, but no other historically documented evidence supports Otho’s use of the name Nero; according to historians his official title as emperor seems instead to have been Imperator Marcus Otho Caesar Augustus. He did restore some of Nero’s busts and statues and reinstated some of his procurators and freedmen. In addition, his first act as emperor was to make a grant of fifty million sesterces for the completion of the Golden House.

Otho is said to have been haunted that night by Galba’s ghost in a terrible nightmare; the servants who ran in when he screamed for help found him lying on the bedroom floor. After this he did everything in his power to placate the ghost, but the next day, while he was taking the auspices, that superstitious practice of observing the flights of birds and movements of nature as omens or signs of augury, a storm suddenly sprang up and forcibly caused him a bad fall, which made him mutter repeatedly, “Plying long flutes is hardly my trade”, a Greek proverb about those who find themselves doing something for which they were not suited. His reign was in fact short-lived, as his support in Rome was not matched throughout the empire.

About this time, before the news of Galba’s assassination had arrived in Judea, Vespasian did eventually decide to accept Galba, whose noble descent, given the standards of the day, would have been daunting to a man of Vespasian’s position in society. He therefore remained quiet, and he sent his son Titus to congratulate Galba, and to receive his orders and commands regarding the Jews, and Agrippa embarked with him.

King Agrippa sailed along with Titus on the very same errand to Galba. But as they were sailing in their long ships by the coast of Achaia, and before they could get to him, for it was wintertime, they heard that Galba had been slain, after he had reigned seven months and as many days, and that after him Otho took the government, and undertook the management of public affairs. The news of Galba’s murder, on fifteen January A.D. 69, reached Titus on the way at Corinth. So Agrippa resolved to go on to Rome without any terror on account of the change in the government; but Titus, by a divine impulse, sailed back from Greece to Syria, and he came in great haste and returned to Caesarea, to his father, to participate in more weighty discussions between Vespasian and Mucianus.

And now they were both in suspense about the public affairs, the Roman empire being then in a fluctuating condition, and did not go on with their expedition against the Jews, but thought that to make any attack upon foreigners was now unreasonable, on the account of the anxiety they were in for their own country.

A civil war in Italy was now inevitable; but the main contenders, Otho and Vitellius, were both men whom Vespasian could reasonably expect to challenge. Following the emperor Nero’s death in June of 68, Titus was energetic in promoting his father’s candidacy for the imperial crown. The emperor Galba had been murdered, and Otho had succeeded, but Vitellius was chosen emperor by the legions of Germany.

Before Galba’s death the legions in Germany had already declared for Aulus Vitellius, and he was already marching on Rome to take power. As soon as news reached Germany of Galba’s murder, eight legions of the Rhine on three January had already hailed him as emperor. Vitellius, whose troops were already moving toward Italy, put his affairs in order and split the army into two divisions, one of whom stayed with him. He sent the other against Otho.

Meanwhile, when Otho heard that the armies in Germany had taken an oath of loyalty to Vitellius, he persuaded the Senate to send a deputation urging them to keep quiet and not be troublesome, since an emperor had already been appointed. But he also wrote Vitellius a personal letter: an invitation to become his father-in-law and share the empire with him. Otho offered to share power with the advancing governor; Vitellius, however, rebuffed the offer. He had already sent troops forward to march on Rome under their generals, and war was inevitable.

Then, one night, in Rome, when Otho gave orders for a naval expedition to be sent to Gaul, the Praetorians gave such unequivocal proof of their faithfulness to Otho as almost involved a massacre of the Senate. Acting quickly in response to Vitellius’s advance, Otho had ordered a naval expedition to Narbonensis, a region in southern Gaul. A detachment of sailors was ordered to fetch some arms from the Praetorian camp and take them aboard their vessels. They were carrying out their instructions at dusk when the Praetorians, alerted by this sudden activity, and suspecting treachery on the part of the Senate, rushed to the palace in a leaderless mob and demanded that every senator should die. Having driven away or murdered the tribunes who tried to stop them, they burst into the banqueting hall, dripping with blood, and shouted, “Where is the emperor?”

But as soon as they saw him busy with his meal their fury abated, and for the moment they stopped their killing.

Acting with speed and determination, Otho, having sent a naval expedition to Narbonensis, a region in southern Gaul, summoned the Danube legions, and himself marched out on fourteen March with his expedition against the commanders of Vitellius. He set out on his campaign very energetically, but according to the Roman Suetonius, haste prevented him from paying sufficient attention to the omens. He says the sacred shields used by the Salii in their procession had not yet been returned to the temple of Mars, traditionally a bad sign, and this was the very day in March when the worshippers of Cybele the so-called mother of the gods began their annual lamentation over the death of her consort Attis, a dying and rising vegetation god. And besides, the auspices were most unfavorable: at a sacrifice offered to Father Dis, the Roman god of the underworld, the victim’s intestines had a healthy look, which according to tradition was exactly what they should not have had. Otho’s departure was, moreover, delayed by a flooding of the Tiber, and at the twentieth milestone he found the road blocked by the ruins of a collapsed building.

But such circumstances cannot indicate what will follow, nor do they reveal what to do or what to avoid, neither do they offer options to choose from, for they appear significant only afterward, when superstitious persons assign interpretations to them. They are not the oracles of the gods. Remember the abandoned ship full of weapons.

And about this time, in Judea, while Vespasian waited, there arose another war at Jerusalem. Simon, son of Giora, came to the robbers who had seized Masada, the sicarii, and persuaded them to trust him. He went out with them, and together they ravaged and destroyed the country about Masada. But he could not persuade them to do even more, and go farther from their hiding-place in that citadel. So seeking to be great, and a tyrant, he went into the mountain region and gathered a set of wicked men from all quarters, proclaimed liberty to slaves, and rewards for all those already free.

With a strong body of men, he overran the villages of the mountains, gained more followers, went into the lower regions of the countryside, and became more formidable; and he corrupted many powerful men, so that, having an army of more than robbers and slaves, much of the populace obeyed him as their king. He built a wall at Nain, making it a fortress, and enlarged the caves in the valley of Paran to store all of their stolen treasures; and many of his partisans dwelt in them.

The Zealots, dreading his growing power to oppose them, came out against him with weapons. Simon met them and killed a considerable number, driving the rest before him into a city. He chose not to assault the wall of the city, but to subdue Idumea instead with twenty thousand men. The rulers gathered about twenty-five thousand warlike men, leaving the rest to guard their country because of the incursions of sicarii out of Masada, and they met Simon at their border. But it was an inconclusive engagement. He went back to Nain, and they withdrew.

Simon increased his power by treachery against those who resisted him and marched suddenly into Idumea, captured Hebron, and gained much plunder. He ravaged the cities and villages and laid waste the whole country to provision his force of forty thousand men. Being barbarous, and angry with the whole country, he greatly depopulated that nation, his army leaving behind it as it advanced only a desert, so desolate that it looked like it had never been cultivated.

Simon’s successes agitated the Zealots in Jerusalem, who laid ambushes in the passes because they were afraid of open battle with him; and they seized his wife. He then advanced on the wall of Jerusalem without mercy, in anger killing all he met. All who came out to gather wood, the unarmed and the old, he tortured and destroyed. He was so furiously enraged that he was ready to taste the flesh of their dead bodies. He cut off the hands of many others and sent them back into the city to shock them, threatening by God to tear down the wall and kill everyone there if they did not return his wife to him. Both the people and the Zealots themselves were so terrified that they sent her back to him, and only then did he temper his rage and stop his unending bloodshed.

Now Simon, as soon as he had recovered his wife, returned to Idumea and drove that nation before him, compelling a great number of them to retreat to Jerusalem. He himself also followed these Idumeans to the city, and again encompassed the wall all around. And whenever he came upon any laborers that were coming there out of the country, he slew them.

Inside Jerusalem, John of Gischala, whom the Galileans had supported and advanced as their head, had become a bloody tyrant himself, with his cutthroat army insatiably indulging every possible vice and treating the whole city as a brothel for its lust. In addition, John had erected four very large towers, that their arrows might come from higher places. But the army of the Idumeans raised a sedition against John and separated themselves from this tyrant, and attempted to destroy him. This was out of envy of his power and hatred of his cruelty. So they got together, and slew many of the Zealots led by Eleazar son of Simon, and drove the rest of them into the royal palace built by Grapte, a relative of Izates, the king of Adiabene. The Idumeans fell into it with them and drove the Zealots out of there and into the Temple, and took to plundering John’s effects; for he himself was there, and there he had laid up the spoils he had acquired by his tyranny. In the meantime the multitude of Zealots dispersed over the city ran together to the Temple to join those who had fled there under Eleazar son of Simon, and John prepared to bring them down against the people and the Idumeans, who, being better soldiers than they, were not so much afraid of being attacked by them as at their madness, lest they should quietly sally forth out of the Temple and mingle with them, and not only destroy them, but also set the city on fire. So they assembled, and the high priests with them, and they discussed how they should prevent their assault.

They devised a remedy to free themselves that was worse than the disease itself. In order to overthrow John and the Zealots, they were determined to admit Simon, earnestly desiring the introduction of a second tyrant into the city. They completely agreed on this resolution, and sent Matthias, the high priest, to beg Simon, he whom they had so often feared, to come in to them. Those who had fled from the Zealots in Jerusalem also joined in this request to him, hoping to preserve their houses and their effects. In an arrogant manner, he accordingly said that he would grant them his lordly protection, and he came into the city to deliver it from the Zealots. The people also made joyful acclamations to him as their savior and their preserver. But when he had come in with his army, he took care to secure his own authority, and looked on those who invited him as no less his enemies than those against whom the invitation had been intended, against John of Gischala and the Zealots of Eleazar son of Simon.

And thus did Simon son of Giora get possession of Jerusalem in the third year of the war, A.D. 69, in the month Xanthicus, which is the first Jewish lunar month Nisan, in March and April. With that, John, and the multitude of Zealots, being prohibited from coming out of the Temple, and having lost power in the city, despaired of deliverance, for Simon and his party had plundered them of what they had. Simon also made an assault on the Temple, with the assistance of the people, while the others stood on the porticoes and the battlements, and defended themselves from their assaults. However, a considerable number of Simon’s party fell, and many were carried off wounded; for the Zealots easily shot arrows from a higher position and seldom failed to hit their enemies. For they had the advantage of situation, having the four very large towers John had erected beforehand, that their arrows might come from higher places, one at the northeast corner of the court, one above the Xystus, the third at another corner over against the lower city, and the last was erected above the top of the Pastophoria, where one of the priests normally stood to give a signal beforehand with a trumpet, as at the beginning of every seventh day in the evening twilight, and at evening when the day was finished, alerting the people when they were to leave off work on Friday evening beginning Saturday just before sunset and when they were to go to work again on Saturday evening beginning Sunday just after sunset; for many Jews impiously regarded the imposition of the Sabbath as a disruption of their work, impatiently resuming their labors the moment the sun was gone. These men also set their engines to shoot arrows, and to sling stones also, onto those towers, with their archers and slingers. But now Simon made a weaker assault on the Temple, because the majority of his men grew weary of that work. Yet he did not cease his opposition, because his army was superior to the others, although the arrows which were powered by the engines traveled a great distance, and slew many of those who fought for him.

But now sedition and civil war prevailed, not only over Judea, but in Italy also. Galba had been slain in the midst of the Roman marketplace, then Otho was made emperor, and he fought against Vitellius, who was also set up as emperor; for the legions in Germany had chosen him.

When Nero and Galba were both dead and Vitellius was disputing the rule with Otho, Vespasian began to remember his imperial ambitions, which had been prompted by omens.

In Italy, although substantial forces joined Otho from Illyricum, by early April the Vitellian forces were far stronger. However, with Vitellius’s forces badly lacking supplies and having little room for maneuver, Otho could have maintained the defensive, yet he rashly staked his fortunes on an immediate victory. Experienced advisers counseled delay, but Otho insisted on action. Otho so deeply abhorred the thought of civil war that he would not have even begun moving against Galba if he had not been confident of a bloodless victory. He made Brixellium his headquarters, and kept himself clear of the fighting. This town is also called Brixia, the Latin name of Brescia, Italy. Although his army had won three lesser engagements, in the Alps, at Placentia, and at a place called Castor’s, they were seduced into a decisive defeat near Bedriacum. There had been talk of an armistice, but Otho’s troops, preparing to fraternize with the enemy while peace was discussed, now found themselves suddenly committed by him to battle, and the two sides met in the inconclusive Battle of Bedriacum in Gaul. For when Otho gave battle to Fabius Valens and Aulus Cecinna Alienus, who were Vitellius’s generals, at Bedriacum, in Gaul, Otho gained the advantage on the first day; but on the second day Vitellius’s soldiers had the victory, and after much slaughter, his army was defeated at Bedriacum, about twenty-two miles east of Cremona, Italy.

The First Battle of Bedriacum, between the troops of Otho and the troops of Vitellius, took place on nineteen April, and Otho’s forces were defeated. When news of the defeat came to Brixellium, many of Otho’s troops urged him to fight on, pointing out that more troops were on the way. For fresh troops stood in reserve for a counteroffensive, and reinforcements came streaming down from Dalmatia, Pannonia and Noesia. Moreover, his defeated army were anxious to redeem their reputation, even without such assistance. When he heard of this defeat at his headquarters in Brixia, Otho immediately decided on suicide. It is more probable that his conscience prevented him from continuing to hazard lives and treasure in a bid for sovereignty than that his men had become demoralized and unreliable.

After embracing his brother, his nephew, and his Friends, he dismissed them with orders to consider their own safety. Then he retired and wrote two letters: one of consolation to his sister, and one of apology to Nero’s widow, Statilia Messalina, whom he had meant to marry, at the same time begging her to bury him and preserve his memory. He next burned all his private correspondence to avoid incriminating anyone if it fell into Vitellius’s hands, and distributed among his household staff whatever money he happened to have on hand.

Deciding to add one extra night to his life, he went to bed, but left his door open for several hours, in case anyone wished to speak with him. After drinking a glass of cold water and testing the points of two daggers, he put one of them under his pillow, closed the door, and slept soundly.

He awoke at dawn. Otho then promptly stabbed himself in the left side and committed suicide. His attendants heard him groan and rushed in. At first he could not decide whether to conceal or reveal the wound, and this delay proved fatal.

Thus, the First Battle of Bedriacum, between the troops of Otho and the troops of Vitellius, resulted in Otho’s self-destruction afterward. Otho slew himself after he had managed public affairs three months and two days. His age was thirty-seven. Several soldiers visited the deathbed, where they kissed his hands and feet, praising him as the bravest man they had ever known and the best emperor imaginable. Afterward, they themselves committed suicide close to his funeral pyre. Thus many who had hated him while he was alive loved him for the way he died. He was even commonly believed to have killed Galba with the object not so much of becoming emperor as of restoring the free Republic. They buried him at once, as he had ordered them to do. Otho had reigned for ninety days, only a footnote in the historical record of the ranks of Roman Emperors.

After Nero had held the government about thirteen years, Galba and Otho had reigned a total of about a year and six months. Each had been given authority to rule for only an hour.

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Chapter 53 Historical texts

The news of the victory at Bedriacum and of Otho’s suicide reached Vitellius before he had left Gaul. Thus he deposed Otho only by default, through suicide, after a three-month reign, on nineteen April A.D. 69. Vitellius assumed power that same day, the third man to be emperor that year.

At once Vitellius disbanded and dismissed all Praetorian cohorts in Rome by a comprehensive decree, accusing them of a disgraceful lapse in discipline: they must surrender their arms to the tribunes. He gave further orders for the arrest and punishment of one hundred and twenty Praetorians known to have demanded a bounty from Otho for services rendered him in regard to Galba’s assassination. In the eyes of the Romans these irreproachably correct acts raised the expectation that Vitellius would make an admirable emperor, but the rest of his behavior instead was in keeping with the character he had shown in the past, and fell far short of the dignity of the imperial office, for he proved incapable of supporting the weight of power won for him by his legates.

It is beyond dispute that all authority comes from God. And those authorities that exist are instituted by God, and those who have been entrusted with authority over the people he will judge with greater strictness. And every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more. Do not seek to be a judge over men, if you have not the strength to uproot wickedness and corruption and the moral integrity to resist it. Vitellius proved incapable of supporting the weight of power won for him by his legates.

Otho’s army came over to Vitellius’s generals, and he came himself down to Rome with his army. Thus Vitellius marched in triumph to Rome. Under the influence of the genius of the emperor, he began by having himself carried through the main streets of the cities on his route to Rome wearing triumphal dress. He crossed rivers in elaborately decorated barges wreathed in garlands; and he always kept a lavish supply of delicacies within reach of his hand. He ignored discipline, and joked about the outrages and excesses committed by his men. Not content with being wined and dined everywhere at public expense, they amused themselves by freeing slaves at random and then whipping, wounding and murdering whoever tried to restrain them. When he reached one of the recent battlefields, where the stench of unburied corpses caused some unpleasant physical reactions and distressing passions of horror, Vitellius cheered his companions with the brazen remark, “Only one thing smells sweeter to me than a dead enemy, and that is a dead fellow citizen.”

This was his tribute to all those Roman citizens who died in battle on both sides. Those who heard him understood that the sweetest thing to him was the death of his own supporters.

Now, it was about this very time that heavy calamities came on Rome from all sides. News came to Vespasian in Judea that Otho’s forces were defeated, conquered by the troops of Vitellius, and soon after the battle, on sixteen April, Otho had committed suicide; and after defeating Otho, Vitellius had been acclaimed Roman Emperor in April 822 A.U.C., on sixteen April in A.D. 69.

The chronology of Vespasian’s actions cannot be precisely determined from the sources at hand. What is certain is that at the latest after Otho’s defeat and suicide on sixteen April 69, Vespasian had begun to collect support. But Vespasian made no move, although his adherents were impatient to press his claims, before he was suddenly stirred to action by the unexpected and fortunate support of a distant group of soldiers whom he did not even know: two thousand men belonging to the three legions of Moesia that had been sent to reinforce Otho. They had marched forward as far as Aquileia, despite the news of Otho’s defeat and suicide which reached them on the way, and had there taken advantage of the unsettled times to plunder at pleasure. And pausing at last to consider what the reckoning might be on their return, they hit on the idea of setting up their own emperor. The troops in Spain had appointed Galba; the Praetorians, Otho; the troops in Germany, Vitellius. So they went through the whole list of provincial governors, rejecting each name in turn for one reason or another before finally choosing Vespasian, on the strong recommendation of some men of the Legio tertia Augusta, Third Augustus Legion men, who had been sent to Moesia from Syria just prior to Nero’s death, and, having chosen him, marking all their standards with his name. Though they were temporarily recalled to duty at this point and did no more in the matter, the news of their decision soon became known.

Tiberius Alexander, the prefect in Egypt, consequently made his legions take the oath to Vespasian, on the Kalends of July, the first day of the month, later celebrated as Vespasian’s accession day. On one July 69, probably as a result of a contrived plot, the two Egyptian legions proclaimed him emperor, followed a few days later by the legions of Syria and Judea.

But now Vespasian’s commanders and soldiers met in several companies, and discussed openly about changing the public affairs. With indignation, they cried out how soldiers living in ease at Rome who have never tasted battle ordain whomever they please as governors of the army, and in expectation of gain for themselves make them emperors, while those who have served long in armor in the field are leaving to them this power. They said that there is more good reason for Vespasian to be emperor than for Vitellius; and those troops who have undergone wars and labors as great as those troops from Germany are not inferior to those who brought that tyrant to Rome and are far more deserving. They reasoned that since the Senate and people of Rome would not bear such a barbarous, lascivious and childless tyrant emperor as Vitellius to preside over them when compared with the good governorship of Vespasian who is both chaste and a father, and that the greatest security kings have for themselves is the advancement of their own children to great dignities; and estimating Vespasian’s ability from years of governing, and the strength of a young man in his own son Titus, both of them able to support with strength anyone made emperor, each having three legions besides auxiliaries from neighboring kings, together with the support of all the armies in the East and those in Europe far from the dread of Vitellius, as well as those in Italy under Vespasian’s older brother, Flavius Sabinus, and his son Domitian entrusted with government of the city; and the fact that delay may allow the Senate to choose an emperor whom the soldiers, who are saviors of the empire, would hold in contempt—having gathered together in a great body, and mutually encouraging each other, they declared Vespasian emperor, and exhorted him to save the government which was now in danger.

His men thought that Vespasian, a great and popular leader, was the very antithesis of the childless wretch Vitellius, for Vespasian had two sons to succeed him, Titus and Domitian, and an older brother, Titus Flavius Sabinus who was the prefect of the city, in charge of the city of Rome. Accordingly, his troops proclaimed Vespasian emperor, and urged him to save the endangered empire. Vespasian, however, declined, but his officers pressed him. When he was reluctant to accept the danger of being emperor compared to the safety of a private life, his troops gathered around him, threatening him with death if he refused. The soldiers drew their swords, and threatened to kill him if he would not live as emperor. And failing to convince them with additional arguments, Vespasian finally yielded; unable to persuade them, he yielded to their salute. Vespasian, who had distinguished himself and become illustrious in the campaigns against the Jews, was then proclaimed sovereign while still in Judea, receiving the title of emperor from the armies there. Then, having been hailed as imperator by the armies on one July 69, 822 A.U.C., Vespasian was proclaimed emperor, and on eleven July the army in Judea swore allegiance to Vespasian in person. He was fifty-eight years old.

Three things helped him greatly: first, the copy of a letter, which some think may be forged, in which Otho begged him most earnestly to save Rome and take vengeance on Vitellius; second, a persistent rumor that Vitellius had planned, after his victory, to restation the legions, transferring those in Gemany to the East, a much softer option, with less opportunity for glory; and lastly, the support of Gaius Licinius Mucianus, then commanding in Syria, who for a long time had not even tried to conceal his jealousy of Vespasian, a jealousy which he now reluctantly renounced, mostly due to the diplomacy of Titus, and promised to lend him the whole Syrian army and the support of Vologaesus, king of the Parthians, who promised him forty thousand archers. Licinius Mucianus, legate of Syria, whom Titus reconciled with Vespasian, considered that one of Vespasian’s greatest assets was to have so promising a son and heir. Vespasian then became the founder of the Flavian dynasty after the civil wars that followed Nero’s death in 68.

When Vespasian was hailed as emperor on one July 69, the troops in the Balkan provinces recognized him and advanced to invade Italy under Marcus Antonius Primus. The unanimous response in other parts of the empire can hardly have been unplanned. Despite Vespasian’s later claim that his public proclamation was a response to the misgovernment of Vitellius, Vitellius only reached Rome in mid-July that year.

Vitellius had come from Germany with his forces, and drawn along with him a great multitude of other men besides. At last, amid fanfares of trumpets, Vitellius entered Rome, wearing a commander’s cloak and a sword, surrounded by standards and banners; his staff wore military cloaks, and his soldiers carried drawn swords. His entrance into Rome took the form of a superficial triumph, in the eyes of the people a grossly offensive way to mark a victory over fellow citizens: he had not crushed an invading army of barbarian forces from the outside bent on destroying Rome.

Vitellius was recognized by the Senate. And paying less and less attention to all laws, human or divine, that is, the Natural Law, he next assumed the office of Pontifex Maximus by defiantly choosing to do so on eighteen July, the four hundred fifty-eighth anniversary of the Allia defeat of Rome. According to tradition, it was on that day in 390 B.C., 364 A.U.C., that the Romans were defeated by the Gauls in a battle at the Allia river, a defeat that paved the way for the Gallic sack of Rome. After the capture of the city at that time a large amount in gold was paid to the Gauls to ransom the city, bankrupting the people. This anniversary was always superstitiously observed by the Romans as a day of ill omen. On the same occasion he announced his appointments for the next ten years ahead, and elected himself consul for life. Then he dispelled any doubt as to what model he would follow in managing the commonwealth by making commemorative sacrificial offerings to Nero in the middle of the Campus Martius, amid a crowd of public priests. He sacrificed to Nero as to a god, and replaced the Praetorian Guard with his troops from Germany. He did nothing to win over Otho’s troops or those from other parts of the empire. But when the spaces allotted for soldiers could not hold them, he made all Rome itself his camp. He converted Rome into a camp for his army, and filled all the houses with armed men, and his troops plundered the citizenry. Those men, when they saw the riches of Rome with eyes that had never seen such riches before, and found that gold and silver shone on all sides, they were most reluctant to exercise that military discipline necessary to contain their covetous desires, and they were eager for plunder and ready to slaughter any who stood in their way. And this was the state of affairs in Italy at that time. This was how his reign began. Omens are not needed to know how it ends.

“Some men’s sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some they follow after.”

Vitellius’s own ruling vices were gluttony and cruelty. He banqueted three and often four times a day, namely morning, noon, afternoon and evening, the last meal being mainly a drinking bout; and he survived the ordeal well enough by vomiting frequently. Even worse, he used to invite himself out to private banquets at all hours, and these never cost his hosts less than four hundred thousand sesterces each.

His cruelty was such that he would kill or torture anyone at all on the slightest pretext, not excluding noblemen who had been his fellow students or friends, whom he lured to court by promises of the highest advancement. One of them, afflicted with a fever, asked for a glass of cold water; Vitellius brought it with his own hands, but added poison; and then he watched him die. When one of his many former creditors who had always demanded prompt payment came to pay a courtesy call, Vitellius sent him off to be executed, but a moment later countermanded the order, explaining that he merely wanted to give himself a treat by having the man killed before his eyes. When two sons of this man came to plead for their father’s life, he had all three executed.

About this time, Vitellius received news that legions in Egypt had rejected his claim to power and sworn allegiance to a rival emperor, to Titus Flavius Vespasianus, the governor of Judea and a successful and popular general, who had sent troops under Antonius Primus to march on Rome and install him on the throne.

In the meantime, besides what troubles there were under Vitellius, after Nero’s suicide in 68 there was also a widespread belief, especially in the eastern provinces, that he was not dead and somehow would return. According to Suetonius, Nero had stabbed himself in the throat with a dagger the previous year. But according to another version recounted by Tacitus, and regarded by most historians as almost certainly fiction, after fleeing Rome he had reached the Greek islands. At least three Nero imposters emerged after his death leading rebellions.

The first imposter, who sang and played the cithara or lyre and whose face was similar to that of the dead emperor, appeared in 69 during the reign of Vitellius. After persuading some to recognize him, he was captured and executed. The governor of Cythnos recognized him in the guise of a red-haired prophet and leader of the poor, had him arrested, and executed the sentence that had been passed by the Senate, death according to the ancient form, scourging with rods and crucifixion.

But there were disturbing rumors that Nero was still alive, his deadly wound was healed, and that he would return to Rome to claim his throne. For about the same time Greece and Asia were greatly alarmed by a false report that Nero was about to reappear, so that many pretended that he was alive and even believed it; and this rumor persisted for centuries. This belief that the beast Nero has revived came to be known as the Nero Redivivus Legend.

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Chapter 54 Historical texts

When Vespasian heard of the troubles that were at Rome, that Vitellius had converted Rome into a camp for his army, and his troops plundered the citizenry, Vespasian was furious at this news, and his army even more so. This produced patriotic indignation in him, and although he well knew how to be governed, as well as to govern, he could not with any satisfaction own as his lord one who acted so madly, and had seized the government as if it were absolutely destitute of a governor. His grief was so great that he was not able to bear the torment he was under and continue to apply himself further in other wars when his native country was laid waste. But as much as his passion pressed him to avenge his country, to the same degree he was restrained by consideration of his distance from it, also because he superstitiously thought the fickle goddess of Fortune might precede him, and do a world of mischief before he himself could sail over the sea to Italy, especially as it was still the winter season, so he restrained his anger, however vehement it was, at this time.

Gaius Licinius Mucianus, the legate of Syria, and other commanders sided with Vespasian. With the support of Mucianus and the other commanders, and the rest of the army, Vespasian sent the news to Tiberius Alexander, governor of Egypt, and desired to have him as confederate and supporter. He readily agreed, and obliged the legions and the multitude to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian. The governor of Egypt, Tiberius Alexander, immediately declared for Vespasian, as did the legions there and in Moesia and Pannonia. The legions in Mysia, which is also called Moesia, and Pannonia, in an uproar over the insolent rebellion of Vitellius, were delighted to take the oath of fidelity to Vespasian.

In December, the eighth month of Vitellius’s reign, the Moesian and Pannonian legions repudiated him and swore allegiance to Vespasian. News spread rapidly. Those in Syria and Judea followed suit and took their oaths in person. And now, when Vespasian had given answers to the envoys, and had justly assigned the places of power according to what everyone deserved, he came to Antioch, and consulting about which way he had best take, he preferred to go to Rome, rather than march to Alexandria, because he saw that Alexandria was already sure to him, but that affairs at Rome were in disorder because of Vitellius.

To ensure his base he had fought a brief campaign against the Jews in midsummer, and took all the places, except Herodium, and Masada, and Machaerus, which were in the possession of the robbers, so that Jerusalem had become the Romans' aim. But now he sent Mucianus with an expeditionary force to the coastal port city of Dyrrhachium, which is Durazzo in Albania, where a fleet was instructed to meet him. So he sent Mucianus to Italy, and committed a considerable army both of horsemen and footmen to him. Yet Mucianus was afraid of going by sea, because of the approach of winter, so he led his army on foot through Cappadocia and Phrygia.

Meanwhile, Vitellius, to keep the goodwill of his remaining troops, embarked on a course of limitless public and private generosity. He opened a recruiting campaign in Rome and promised volunteers immediate discharge after victory, with the full rights and privileges of regular service.

In the meantime, while Mucianus was on the march, Marcus Antonius Primus took the Legio tertia Augusta, the Third Augustus Legion of the legions that were in Moesia, for he was president of that province, and made haste, in order to fight Vitellius. Licinius Mucianus, having been sent by Vespasian to Italy with an army, was now joined by Antonius Primus from Moesia and his Third Legion, and Mucianus invaded Italy with Antonius.

When the forces supporting Vespasian converged on Rome, Vitellius sent Aulus Cecinna off with a great army, having enormous confidence in him, because he had beaten Otho. He sent against them the troops who had fought at Bedriacum, under their original officers, and put his brother in command of a fleet manned by recruits and gladiators.

Cecinna marched out of Rome in great haste, and found Antonius around Cremona in Gaul, a city near the borders of Italy; but when he saw that the enemy there were numerous and in good order, he dared not fight them. Since he thought a retreat dangerous, he began to think of surrendering his army to Antonius. Accordingly, he assembled the centurions and tribunes under his command, and with rhetoric persuaded them to go over to Antonius by minimizing the reputation of Vitellius and exaggerating the power of Vespasian. He also told them, that with the one there was no more than the bare name of dominion, but with the other the power of it; and that it was better for them to avoid necessity, and gain favor; and, as long as they were likely to be overcome in battle, to avoid the danger beforehand and go over to Antonius willingly; and that Vespasian was able by himself to subdue what had not yet surrendered, without their assistance, while Vitellius could not preserve what he already had even with it.

Cecinna said this, and much more to the same point, and persuaded them to agree with him; and both he and his army deserted Vitellius. But that very same night the soldiers repented, and a fear seized them that perhaps Vitellius who had sent them would get the better. So, drawing their swords, they assaulted Cecinna, in order to kill him; and they would have done it, if the tribunes had not fallen on their knees, and begged them not to do it. So the soldiers did not kill him, but put him in chains, as a traitor, and were about to send him to Vitellius. But when Antonius Primus heard of this, he immediately roused his men, and made them put on their armor, and led them against those who had revolted against Cecinna, who put themselves in battle order, and for a while put up resistance, but Primus overcame them; they were soon beaten, and fled to Cremona.

But now within a day’s time Antonius Primus came with his army, and met Vitellius and his army there. Then Primus took his cavalry, cut off his entrance into the city, and surrounded and destroyed a great multitude of them before it. He descended into the city together with the rest, and gave his soldiers leave to plunder it. And it was here that many foreigners who were merchants, as well as many of the people of that country, perished, and among them Vitellius’s whole army, thirty thousand two hundred men, while Antonius lost no more than four thousand five hundred of those who came with him from Moesia, also called Mysia. Thus, Vespasian’s followers defeated the forces of Vitellius. Having had a battle in three separate places, they were all destroyed.

After Vitellius’s troops were thus defeated in the Second battle of Bedriacum in October of 69, Antonius Primus then released Cecinna, and sent him to Vespasian to tell him the good news. So he came, and was received by him; and was able to cover the scandal of his treachery to Vitellius by the unexpected honors he received from Vespasian.

And now, in Rome, with the news that Antonius Primus was approaching, Vespasian’s brother, Titus Flavius Sabinus, the city prefect, took courage, assembled those cohorts of soldiers who kept watch by night, and in the nighttime seized the Capitol complex. As the day advanced, many men of character came over to him as Flavian supporters, together with his brother’s son, Titus Flavius Domitian, eighteen years old, whose encouragement was of very great weight in deciding the government. During his father’s uprising against Vitellius in A.D. 69, Domitian was in fact in Rome.

Now, Vitellius was not too concerned about Primus, but was very angry with those who had revolted with Flavius Sabinus. So out of his own barbaric nature, and thirsting after noble blood, he sent out that part of the army which came along with him, to fight against the Capitol hill complex. Many bold actions were done on his side, and on the side of those who held the temple of Jupiter. But at last, the soldiers of Vitellius from Germany, being too numerous for the others, took possession of the hill, where Domitian, with many other principal Romans, providentially made their escape. Domitian remained unharmed, while the rest of the multitude were entirely cut to pieces, and Sabinus himself was brought to Vitellius. Sabinus persuaded Vitellius to abdicate. Realizing that he was being beaten or betrayed on every side, he approached Sabinus, and asked, “What is my abdication worth?”

Sabinus offered him his life and a fee of one hundred million sesterces.

Later, from the palace steps, Vitellius announced his decision to the assembled soldiers, explaining that the imperial power had, after all, been forced upon him. When an uproar of protest greeted this speech, he put things off. But the next day, on eighteen December A.D. 69, he went in mourning to the Rostra and tearfully read it out again from a scroll. When the city prefect of Rome and elder brother of Vespasian, Flavius Sabinus, thus attempted to seize power, during the confusion about Vitellius’s alleged abdication Domitian was with his uncle Sabinus. Vitellius attempted to resign as emperor, but he was overruled by his followers and the Praetorian Guard. Once more the soldiers and the crowds shouted “Stand fast!” and outdid one another in their expressions of loyalty. Suddenly taking heart, Vitellius with his followers and the Praetorian Guard drove the unsuspecting Sabinus and the Flavian supporters into the Capitol. The Roman mob joined with Vitellius’s troops to chase Sabinus to the Capitoline Hill, and Sabinus was slain, executed by Vitellius. But Domitian had concealed himself in the temple in the caretaker’s quarters. The soldiers also plundered the ornaments of the temple, the temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus, and set it on fire, and burned the Flavian supporters—burned them alive! The temple of Jupiter was burned to the ground during the rioting.

Vitellius watched the play of the flames and his victims' struggles while banqueting in the mansion which had belonged to Tiberius. He was soon overcome by remorse and, blaming someone else for the murder, he called an assembly and forced all present to bear witness that peace was now his sole objective. Then, drawing his dagger, he tried in turn to make the consul, the other magistrates and the remaining senators accept it. When all refused, he went to lay it up in the temple of the goddess Concord. However, they called him back by shouting, “No, you yourself are Concord!

So back he came, saying, “Very well, I will keep the dagger and adopt the divine name you have graciously awarded me.” (Concord with dagger and sword.)

Vitellius also made the Senate send envoys, accompanied by the Vestal Virgins, to arrange an armistice or at least to gain time for deliberation. But on the following day, while he was waiting for a response, a scout arrived with news that enemy detachments were close at hand.

Now Domitian had remained all night in the temple caretaker’s quarters, and at sunrise he disguised himself as a devotee of Isis and took refuge among the priests of that somewhat disreputable and rather questionable order. Soon he managed to escape with a friend across the Tiber river, to the house of the mother of one of his fellow students. She hid him so cleverly that she outwitted the men of Vitellius who had tracked him there, and searched the place from the foundation to the roof.

Primus had arrived one day too late to save Sabinus. The fighting now moved to Rome. Vespasian’s army, under Primus’s leadership, attacked and entered Rome on twenty December with street to street battles and a fire that engulfed the city. Rome burned.

On twenty-one December, while the fighting continued, Vespasian’s position was officially confirmed by the Senate, but he remained quite frank about the military origin of his rule. He dated his powers to one July, when the troops had acclaimed him, thus flouting constitutional precedent and contradicting even the behavior of his rival Vitellius, who had awaited confirmation by the Senate.

And later, after two days of street fighting in Rome, and the fight that was about the Capitol, Vespasian’s troops easily defeated the Vitellian legions who had treated the whole city as their camp and a brothel for their lust. The others that were slain numbered above fifty thousand. This battle was fought on the third day of the month Apelleus, which is the ninth Jewish lunar month Casleu, in November and December. The advance guard entered Rome without opposition and at once began searching. Vitellius furtively hurried to his father’s house on the Aventine Hill, having planned an escape into Campania. But a rumor of peace enticed him back to the palace, which he found deserted. He hid with a money belt full of gold in the doorkeeper’s quarters.

On the next day Mucianus came into the city with his army, and ordered Antonius and his men to leave off killing; for they were still searching the houses, and had killed many of Vitellius’s soldiers and many of the populace, supposing them to be of his party, their rage preventing them from making any accurate distinction between them and others; they were drunk with blood.

In the palace, they forcefully brought Vitellius out from hiding in the doorkeeper’s quarters, and not recognizing him, asked if he knew where they could find the emperor. Although he lied, he was soon identified. Josephus says that Vitellius later emerged from a palace banquet, gorged and drunk. He himself came out of the palace, in his cups, drunk and satiated with an extravagant and luxurious meal, as in the last extremity, a condemned man’s last meal. The emperor himself was dragged from his palace. His hands were tied behind him, a noose was fastened around his neck, and amid cheers and abuse the soldiers dragged him, half-naked, with his clothes in tatters, along the Via Sacra, the Sacred Way, to the Forum. And being drawn along by the multitude, they pulled his head back by the hair, as is done with criminals, and stuck a sword point under the chin, exposing his face to public contempt. Dung and filth were hurled at him, with name-calling, and his appearance provoked laughter. He was dragged through a mob and abused with all sorts of torments, and finally butchered: the soldiers put him through the torture of the small cuts before finally killing him near the Gemonian Stairs. He had his head cut off in the midst of Rome, having ruled eight months. Then they dragged his body to the Tiber with a hook and threw it in.

This was how Antonius Primus and Licinius Mucianus slew Vitellius and his German legions, and put an end to that civil war. Vitellius was slain twenty-two December A.D. 69 and died at the age of fifty-six. Josephus said, “had he lived much longer, I cannot but think the empire would not have been sufficient for his lust.”

see notes

See virtual 3D tour of Rome -
Rome Reborn 2.2: A Tour of Ancient Rome in 320 CE - on Vimeo - Bernard Frischer


Chapter 55 Historical texts

The Emperor Nero was assassinated in A.D. 68 and a period of struggle had erupted with multiple claimants to the throne vying for the emperorship in 69. On one July several legions proclaimed Vespasian as emperor. By the time his forces arrived in Italy, out of the four candidates, only he and one other claimant, Vitellius, were left. Galba and Otho were dead, each having reigned only an hour. Vespasian’s armies defeated Vitellius at the second battle of Bedriacum, in October of 69, and after street fighting in Rome, Vitellius was slain. He died on twenty-two December A.D. 69, in Rome, Italy; nor did his brother and son outlive him. He was murdered with great barbarity and thrown into the Tiber river, the last of Nero’s three short-lived successors, having retained the government eight months and five days. Each of the three had reigned only an hour.

Vespasian’s men in Rome declared the emperorship for him, for he was in Alexandria. Domitian emerged from hiding after Vitellius’s death and made himself known to Mucianus. He then produced Domitian, and recommended him to the multitude, as Regent, before his father should come himself. Domitian was hailed as Caesar. At last free from Vitellius’s terrors, the Roman people also acclaimed Vespasian emperor. The Senate, of course, agreed. The people being now freed from their fears, made acclamations of joy for Vespasian, as for their emperor, and kept festival-days for his confirmation, and for the destruction of Vitellius.

It was also alleged that but for Antonius’s invasion and its destructive progress Vespasian’s victory could have been bloodless, a very doubtful claim. Vespasian gave no thanks to Antonius Primus, whose final misfortune was that Mucianus was able to cross quickly to Rome and take over the reins of power.

At Rome the Senate, delighted and full of confident expectations, decreed to Vespasian cuncta principibus solita, “all the honors customary”, that is, all the honors customarily bestowed on the emperors, known to us as the lex de imperio Vespasiani, literally, “Vespasian rule of law”, the Rule of Law under Vespasian. And indeed the civil war, which, beginning in Gaul and Spain, and afterward, drawing into the struggle first Germany and then Illyricum, had traversed Egypt, Judea, and Syria, every province, and every army, this war, now that the whole earth was as if it had been purged from guilt, seemed to have reached its close. A letter from Vespasian written during the continuance of the war increased their eagerness, such indeed was its character at first sight. The writer, however, speaking modestly about himself, expressed himself as an Emperor, in admirable language about the State. There was no lack of deference on the part of the Senate. On the Emperor and his son Titus the consulship was bestowed by decree; and on Domitian the office of praetor with consular authority.

On the day, however, that the Senate was voting about the imperial dignities of Vespasian, it had been resolved that envoys should be sent to the new Emperor. From this arose a sharp altercation. That party finally prevailed which preferred that the envoys should be chosen by lot.

While there was division in the Senate, and resentment among the conquered, and no real authority in the conquerors, and in the country at large no laws and no emperor, General Gaius Licinius Mucianus entered the capital, and at once drew all power into his own hands. He alone was canvassed and courted, and he, surrounding himself with armed men, and bargaining for palaces and gardens, ceased not, with his personal magnificence, his proud bearing, and his guards, to grasp at the power, while he waived the titles of empire. Before Vespasian’s return Mucianus reduced the Praetorian Guard, which had been greatly enlarged by Vitellius, to approximately its former size.

On twenty-one December Vespasian’s position was officially confirmed by the Senate, but he remained quite frank about the military origin of his rule. He dated his powers to one July, when the troops had acclaimed him, thus flouting constitutional precedent and contradicting even the behavior of his rival Vitellius, who had awaited confirmation by the Senate.

Meanwhile Vespasian, now consul for the second time, and Titus, entered upon their office in absentia, both being absent from Rome. People were gloomy and anxious under the pressure of manifold fears, for, over and above immediate perils, they had taken groundless alarm under the impression that Africa was in rebellion through the revolutionary movements of Lucius Piso. He was governor of that province, and was far from being a man of turbulent disposition. In fact the wheat ships were detained by the severity of the weather, and the lower classes, who were accustomed to buy their provisions from day to day, and to whom cheap grain was the sole subject of public interest, feared and believed that the ports had been closed and the supplies stopped, in a bid for power by Lucius Piso. The Vitellianists, who had not yet given up their partisan feelings, were helping to spread the report, which was not displeasing even to the conquerors. Their ambition, which even involvement in foreign campaigns could not completely fill to the full, was not satisfied by any triumphs that civil war could furnish.

Tacitus records that by twenty-two December A.D. 69, Vespasian had been given all the honors and privileges usually granted to emperors. Even so, the issue remains unclear, largely due to a surviving fragment of an enabling law, the lex de imperio Vespasiani, which conferred powers, privileges, and exemptions on the new emperor, most of them with Julio-Claudian precedents. Whether the fragment represents a typical granting of imperial powers which has uniquely survived in the case of Vespasian, or represents an original attempt to limit or expand those powers, remains difficult to know. In any case, the fragmentary lex sanctions all that Vespasian had done up to its passing and gave him authority to act as he saw fit on behalf of the Roman people.

Neither consanguinity nor adoption, as formerly, but great influence in the army having now become the road to the imperial throne, no person could claim a better title to that elevation than Titus Flavius Vespasian. He had not only served with great reputation in the wars both in Britain and Judea, but seemed as yet untainted with any vice which could pervert his conduct in the civil administration of the empire. It appears, however, that he was prompted more by the persuasion of Friends, than by his own ambition, to prosecute the attainment of the imperial dignity. To render this enterprise more successful, he had recourse to a new and peculiar strategem, which, while well accommodated to the superstitious credulity of the Romans, impressed them with the idea that Vespasian’s destiny to the throne was confirmed by supernatural indications.

Vespasian, the new emperor, unexpectedly having been raised from a low estate, needed something which might clothe him with the appearance of divine majesty and authority. This too was now likewise added. A poor man who was blind, and another who was lame, both together came before him when he was seated on the tribunal, imploring him to heal them, and saying that they were admonished in a dream by the god Serapis to seek his aid, who assured them that he would restore sight to the one, by anointing his eyes with his spittle, and give strength to the leg of the other, if he condescended to only touch it with his heel. At first he could scarcely believe that the thing would in any way succeed, and therefore he hesitated to venture making the experiment. At length, however, by the advice of his Friends, he made the attempt publicly, in the presence of the assembled multitudes, and it was seemingly crowned with success in both cases; the one cried out that he could see, and the other showed that his leg was now strong. But, after his elevation, we hear no more of his miraculous achievements.

About the same time, at Tegea in Arcadia, by the direction of some soothsayers, several vessels of ancient workmanship were dug out of a consecrated place, on which there was an effigy, a likeness, resembling Vespasian.

Meanwhile, Vespasian having sent troops ahead to Italy, he himself had crossed over to Alexandria, so that he might occupy this key to Egypt. There he dismissed his companions and entered the temple of Serapis, alone, to consult the auspices and discover how long he would last as emperor. After many propitiatory sacrifices, he turned to go. And now, almost at once, just as Vespasian had come to Alexandria, good news came from Rome. Dispatches from Italy brought the news of Vitellius’s defeat at Cremona and his assassination at Rome. And at the same time that he received the good news in Alexandria, envoys came from all his own habitable earth, to congratulate him on his advancement. Vespasian took power the same day. And though Alexandria was the greatest of all cities next to Rome, it proved too small to contain the multitude that then came into it. So on this confirmation of Vespasian’s entire government, which was not yet settled, and with the unexpected deliverance of the public affairs of the Romans from ruin, peace having been established in Italy, foreign affairs were once more remembered.

The way was now open for the improvement of certain frontiers. Beyond Rome, important changes were made in the East. The emperor increased the number of legions in the East, where Vespasian replaced the single army in Syria, which up to Nero’s time had only four legions, with three armies, with a total of six legions, in Cappadocia, Syria, and Judea; and in the West he continued the process of imperial expansion by the annexation of northern England, the pacification of Wales, and by advances into Scotland and southwest Germany between the Rhine and the Danube. In southern Germany annexation of a territory called Agri Decumates cut off the reentrant angle formed by the Rhine at Basel. Vespasian also conferred rights on communities abroad, especially in Spain, where the granting of Latin rights to all native communities contributed to the rapid Romanization of that province during the Imperial period.

After he became emperor, he used to rise in the winter very early, often before daybreak. Having read over his letters, and the briefs of all the departments of the government offices, he admitted his Friends; and while they were paying him their compliments, he would put on his own shoes, and dress himself with his own hands. Then, after dispatching the business brought before him, he rode out, and afterward retired to relax, reclining on his couch with one of his mistresses, for he kept several of them after the death of Caenis. Coming out of his private apartments, he went to the bath, and then entered the dining-room. He never seemed more good-humored and indulgent than at that time, and his attendants always seized that opportunity to ask a favor.

Vespasian meanwhile turned his thoughts to what remained unsubdued in Judea; he had taken all the places, except Herodium, and Masada, and Machaerus, which were in the possession of the robbers, so that Jerusalem was now the Romans' present aim; and he committed the care of the war against the Jews into the hands of his son Titus. Roman indignation was heightened by the circumstance that the Jews alone had not submitted. At the same time, in reference to the possible results and contingencies of the new reign, it was held to be more expedient that Titus should remain with the army. Entrusting to Titus the war against the Jews, he ordered his son to go with a select party of elite troops of his army, sending him to crush and destroy Jerusalem. However, he himself made haste to go to Rome, as the winter of 69-70 was now almost over, and he soon set the affairs of Alexandria in order, and from there he would sail to Rome. Directing, therefore, his course immediately to Rome, he set out.

Vespasian left for Rome, leaving the overseeing of the operations and their final conclusion to his son Titus. The insurrection in Judea that had begun in A.D. 66, now continued into A.D. 70.

see notes


Chapter 56 Historical texts

God was not long in executing vengeance on the Jews for their wickedness against the Christ, the Anointed One of God.

Jerusalem in those days was regarded by Rome as a stubborn obstacle to the pacification of Judea. The details of calamities from assaults by the sword and other means, which had overwhelmed the whole nation, the extreme miseries to which the inhabitants of Judea were particularly subjected, the vast numbers of men, women and children who perished by the sword, famine, and innumerable other forms of death—all these, and the great, incredibly excessive, sufferings endured by those who fled to Jerusalem itself, as to a city of perfect safety—these facts and the war itself can be essentially condensed and summarized by any competent historian from a multitude of ancient sources describing what took place at that time. Eusebius says it is not necessary to add to the accounts of the most ancient historians who wrote about the calamities that befell the whole Jewish nation after the Savior’s passion and the words that the multitude of the Jews uttered, when they begged for the release of the robber and murderer, but begged that the Prince of Life should be removed from their midst.

The Hasmonean founders of the independent Jewish state had foreseen that frequent wars would result from a xenophobic hatred of their singular customs, so they had made every provision against the most protracted siege. After the capture of their city by Pompey in 63 B.C., experience and apprehension taught the Jews much. Availing themselves of the corrupt governmental policy of the Claudian era to allow purchase of the right of fortification, in time of peace they raised walls suited for war.

The city of Jerusalem was fortified with three walls at those parts not facing impassable valleys; but at such deep places it had only one wall. The city was built on two hills, opposite to one another, with a valley dividing them; the corresponding rows of houses on both hills end there. That hill which contains the Upper City is much higher, and in length more straight. Thus, it was called the “Citadel” by King David, the father of Solomon who first built the Temple; but the Jews called it the “Upper Marketplace”. The other hill, called “Acra”, which supports the lower city, is shaped like a crescent moon with horns; facing this was a third hill, naturally lower than Acra, and formerly parted from it by a broad valley. However, in the times of the reign of the Hasmoneans, they filled in that valley with earth, and planned to join the city to the Temple. They then removed part of the height of Acra, and reduced it to a lesser elevation, so the Temple might be above it. Now what was called the Valley of the Cheesemongers, which distinguished the hill of the upper city from the lower, extended as far as Siloam, the name of a fountain which has sweeter water in it, in great plenty. These hills are surrounded outside by deep valleys, and because of the high vertical cliffs, or precipices, on both sides, they are everywhere impassable.

Now, of these three walls, the old one was hard for enemy forces to take, both because of the valleys, and that hill on which it was built, above them. But besides that great advantage, the place where they were situated was also built very strong; because David and Solomon, and the following kings, were very zealous about this work. It began on the north, at the tower Hippicus, and extended east as far as the terrace called the Xystus, and then, joining to the council house, ended at the west portico or colonnade of the Temple. But going the other way westward, it began at the same place, and extended through a place called Bethso, to the gate of the Essenes; and then it went southward, bending above the fountain Siloam, where it also bends again toward the east at Solomon’s pool, and reaches as far as a certain place called Ophlas, anciently called Ophel, where it joined to the eastern portico or colonnade of the Temple.

The second wall began at the gate called Gennath, which belonged to the first wall; it only enclosed the northern quarter of the city, and reached as far as the tower Antonia.

The third wall began at the tower Hippicus, and reached as far as the north quarter of the city, and the tower Psephinus, and then extended as far as the monuments of Helena, queen of Adiabene, the daughter of Izates; it then extended farther to a great length, past the burial caverns of the kings, and bent again at the tower of the Corner, at the Monument of the Fuller, and joined to the old wall at the Valley of Kidron. It was Agrippa the First who enclosed with this wall the parts added to the old city, which had all been exposed before; for as the population of the city grew, it gradually spread beyond its old limits, and the parts that stood north of the Temple, and joined that hill to the city, made it considerably larger, causing that hill, the fourth, called Bezetha, to be inhabited too. It lies opposite the tower Antonia, but divided from it by a deep valley, dug on purpose to keep the foundations of the tower Antonia from being joined to this hill, and avoid providing any opportunity for getting to that hill with ease and compromise the security of its superior elevation; for that reason the very depth of the ravine also made the elevation of the towers more remarkable. This newly-built part of the city was called Bezetha in the Jewish language, which, interpreted in the Grecian language, may be called New City. Since its inhabitants stood in need of protection, King Agrippa, the father of the present king, Agrippa the Second, of the same name, began the wall enclosing it; but he ceased when he had only laid the foundation, fearing that Claudius Caesar should suspect that so strong a wall was built as a prelude to introducing major changes in public affairs; for there was no way the city could have been taken if that wall had been finished in the way it was begun; its parts were joined together by stones twenty-eight feet long, and fourteen feet wide, which could never have been easily undermined by any iron tools, or shaken by any siege engines or battering rams. The base of the wall was, however, fourteen feet wide at ground level, and it would probably have had a height greater than that, if his zeal not been thus prevented from exerting itself. But after this the wall was erected with great diligence by the Jews, as high as twenty-eight feet, and surmounted by battlements three feet high, and turrets four and a quarter feet high, so that the entire altitude of the wall extended up as far as thirty-five and a half feet.

Now the towers on it were twenty-eight feet broad and twenty-eight feet high; they were square and solid, as was the wall itself, and the precision of the joints and the beauty of the stones were in no way inferior to those of the holy house itself. Above this solid twenty-eight foot altitude of the towers, were rooms of great magnificence, and over them upper rooms and cisterns to receive rain water. They were very numerous, and every one of the steps ascending up to them was broad; and then the third wall had ninety towers, and the space between each of them was ninety-four and a half yards, or two hundred and eighty-three feet; but in the middle wall there were forty towers; and the old wall was divided into sixty; while the whole circumference of the city was four miles two hundred twenty yards around, or nineteen thousand eight hundred feet. Now all of the third wall was a wonder to behold; yet the tower Psephinus was elevated above its northwest corner; and being ninety-nine feet high, it afforded a wide prospect of Arabia at sunrise, as well as the utmost limits of the Hebrew possessions westward to the Mediterranean sea. Moreover, it was an octagon, and facing it was the tower Hippicus; and close by were two others erected by King Herod, in the old wall. For largeness, beauty, and strength, these were beyond any buildings in the habitable earth; for Herod was an extraordinary builder, to gratify his vanity; and he dedicated these towers to the memory of those three persons who had been dearest to him, and he named them for his brother, his friend, and his wife. This wife he had slain, out of love and jealousy; the other two he lost in war, as they were courageously fighting.

The Hippicus, named for his friend, was square; its length and breadth were each thirty-five and a half feet, its height forty-two and a half feet, with no hollow place in it. Over this solid structure, composed of great stones joined together, was a reservoir twenty-eight feet deep, and over it a house of two stories, thirty-five and a half feet high, divided into several parts; and battlements of three feet over it, and turrets all round, each four and a quarter feet high, so that the entire height added together amounted to one hundred thirteen and one-third feet.

The second tower, he named for his brother Phasaelus, its breadth and length equal, each fifty-six and two-thirds feet; and over this base its solid height of fifty-six and two-thirds feet; and over it a portico went round about, whose height was fourteen feet, protected from enemies by breast-works and bulwarks. There was also built over that portico another tower, partitioned into magnificent rooms and a place for bathing; so that this tower lacked nothing that might make it appear to be a royal palace. It was also adorned with battlements and turrets, more than the foregoing, and the entire altitude was about one hundred twenty seven and a half feet; in appearance it resembled the tower of Pharos, which exhibited a fire to those who sailed to Alexandria, but much larger in area.

The third tower was Mariamme, for that was his queen’s name; it was solid as high as twenty-eight feet; its breadth and length were equal, twenty-eight feet; its upper buildings were more magnificent, and had greater variety than the other towers; for the king thought it most proper for him to better adorn the one named for his wife, than those named for men, as they were built stronger than this one which bore his wife’s name. The entire height of this tower was almost seventy-one feet.

Now these towers, so very tall, appeared much taller because of the place where they stood; for that very old wall was built on a high hill, itself an elevation of still forty-two and a half feet higher; on it the towers were situated, and were thus made much higher in appearance. The largeness also of the stones was wonderful, not common small stones nor only large ones men could carry, but white marble cut out of the rock; each stone twenty-eight feet in length, fourteen in breadth, and seven in thickness or depth. They were so exactly fitted together, that each tower looked like one entire rock of natural stone cut by the hands of the craftsmen into their present shape and corners, so imperceptible were their joints or connection. Now since the towers themselves were on the north side of the wall, the king built an adjoining palace inside, which Josephus says he was not able to describe; for it was so very elaborate that no cost or skill was spared in its construction, but was entirely walled around to a height of forty-two and a half feet, and adorned with towers at equal distances, with large bed chambers, each of them able to contain beds for a hundred guests; the variety of the stones could not be expressed; for a large quantity of the rare kind was collected together. Their roofs were also wonderful, both for the length of the beams and the splendor of their ornaments. The number of rooms was also immense, and the variety of statues in them was prodigious; they were completely furnished, and the majority of the vessels in them was silver and gold. Besides this there were many porticoes, many colonnades throughout, one after another, and in each of these porticoes elaborately carved pillars; yet all the courts open everywhere to the air were green. There were moreover several groves of trees, and long walks through them, with deep canals, and cisterns, which in several parts were filled with brazen statues, through which the water ran out. There were in addition many dove-courts of tame pigeons about the canal; but, indeed, it is not possible to give a complete description of these palaces, what vastly rich buildings they were.

Now, the war in Judea, which had started under Nero, was continued in the reign of Vespasian; with his accession to the Roman throne he left the war against the Jews and the siege of Jerusalem to be conducted by his son Titus, who remained in the East to undertake the siege of Jerusalem, the exploit for which he is most remembered. While he was not a very experienced general, Titus’s own quality was that the new emperor, his father, could trust him. While he was still assisting his father at Alexandria in settling the government newly conferred on them by God, the rebellion at Jerusalem, beset by violent factional strife and internal discord, had revived and divided into three factions, each fighting against the other. It would be no mistake to call it a rebellion begotten by another rebellion, like a wild beast grown mad with hunger, and without food, which began to devour its own flesh. This terrible situation may be said to be the result of divine justice, and therefore a good thing from God. Vespasian’s strategy, to allow the Jews in Jerusalem to destroy themselves, had been successful.

Since these matters have been thought worthy of mention by the historian Josephus, we cannot do better than review them as a summary introduction for the benefit of the reader, before going into more detail.

For seven years Jesus the son of Ananus, a plebeian and an husbandman, had continued his melancholy cry in the city, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!”; and his cry was loudest at the festivals. He had been examined, and beaten by the city authorities; Albinus the procurator had finally dismissed him as a madman; and every day he uttered these lamentable words. Nor did he speak ill to those who beat him every day, nor good to those who gave him food; but he gave the same answer to all, as if this was his premeditated vow, “Woe, woe to Jerusalem!

The warlike men in the city were three generals, and as many armies. Besides the Zealots of Eleazar son of Simon and the private army of John of Gischala, a new leader had come to power, Simon, son of Giora, whom the people of Jerusalem had begged to come in to them. He was supported by men from Idumea, the southern part of Judea that the Romans had reconquered only recently. John and Simon had different agendas. The first appeared to strive only for political freedom and had minted silver coins with the words “Freedom of Zion”. Simon, on the other hand, stood at the head of a messianic movement; his copper coins have the words “Redemption of Zion”. Eleazar had coins struck in his own name, with the inscription: “The First Year of the Redemption of Jerusalem.” And now with Simon, son of Giora, there were three treacherous factions in the city, the one parted from the other. Their numbers were increased by a vast rabble collected from the overthrow of the other cities by Vespasian. All the most obstinate rebels had escaped into the place, and perpetual seditions were the consequence. All who were able bore arms, and a disproportionate number of the populace of Jerusalem had the courage to do so. The right to bear arms was exalted. Men and women showed equal resolution, and life seemed to them more terrible than death, if they were to be forced to leave their country.

The city as a whole consisted of four parts.

In the south, the Old Town was situated on a steep plateau; its walls, which faced the Valley of Hinnom in the west and south (also called the Valley of Ben Hinnom, and Gehenna) were old but almost impossible to assail. Here, Simon, son of Giora, was in charge. The multitude of the rebels with Simon were ten thousand, besides the Idumeans. Those ten thousand had fifty commanders, over whom Simon was supreme. The Idumeans who paid him homage were five thousand, who had eight commanders, among the most famous of whom were Jacob the son of Sosas, and Simon the son of Cathlas.

In the east was the Temple complex. This inner bulwark was next to the Kidron ravine, which prevented any attack. Part of the Temple complex was a lofty castle or tower called Antonia. It was seized by Eleazar’s Zealots, who were two thousand four hundred in number. For, desiring to gain for himself all the power and rule, he revolted from John with the assistance of Judas, son of Chelcias, and Simon, son of Ezron, among the most powerful men there; with him also was Hezekiah, son of Chobar, a man of eminence. A great many of the Zealots followed them.

West of the Temple complex and more to the north was the New Town section, Bezetha, built in the A.D. forties, during the reign of Claudius, which had walls of its own. This residential quarter named Bezetha, which also means New Town, had only recently been added to the city; it did not have many inhabitants, and old graves could still be seen between the houses. It was now occupied by the six thousand men of John’s militia.

So it was that the city was at war from these treacherous crowds of wicked men, and the people between them were like a huge body torn in pieces. The inhabitants could not flee, for the heads of these robbers, while hostile to each other, agreed only on this: to murder the innocent, everyone who was for peace with the Romans, or were suspected of planning to desert to them, as being their common enemies. Elderly men and women wished for the Romans to come and free them by a war outside the city, to deliver them from the miseries within it, but they did not dare to say so in public, because they were afraid of death, of being killed. Such was this city and nation.

Now, let us consider a condensed and orderly account of the history of both Rome and Jerusalem at this time, as subject to the absolute sovereignty of Almighty God in the power of the Holy Spirit through his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, the one true Lord of lords and King of kings;

“for all his works are right and his ways just; and those who walk in pride he is able to abase.”

After the death of Vitellius, the Senate, at the end of A.D. 69, decreed to Vespasian cuncta principibus solita, ‘all that is usual for emperors’, which was put before the comitia at the beginning of A.D. 70.

In Rome, on Wednesday one January, A.D. 70, the Kalends of Ianuarius 823 A.U.C. in the Roman calendar, at a meeting of the Senate convoked by Julius Frontinus, praetor of the city, votes of thanks were passed to the legates, to the armies, and to the allied kings. The office of praetor was taken from Tettius Julianus for deserting his legion when it decided to join the party of Vespasian, with a view to its being transferred to Plotius Griphus. Equestrian rank was conferred on Hormus. Then, with the resignation of Julius Frontinus, Domitian, the son of Vespasian in Rome, eighteen years old, assumed the office of praetor of the city. His name was put at the head of dispatches and edicts. For a short time after arrival of his father’s troops, Domitian enjoyed the privilege of acting as Regent, but Gaius Licinius Mucianus held the real authority, with the exception that Domitian, either at the instigation of his friends, or his own whim, risked several acts of power. Nevertheless, Mucianus, the governor of Syria and ally of Vespasian who had led an army of twenty thousand to Rome, acted as Domitian’s colleague in this regency and carefully kept Domitian in check.

But the principal cause of apprehension for Mucianus was Primus Antonius and Varus Arrius, distinguished by great achievements and the loyal devotion of the troops, who in the freshness of their fame were also supported by the people, because they had not extended their harsh discipline beyond the battle-field. Antonius had also reportedly urged Scribonianus Crassus to assume the supreme power, whose illustrious descent, added to the honors of his brother, made him conspicuous; and a number of accomplices would not have failed to support him, if the proposal had not been rejected by Scribonianus, a man not easily tempted even by a certainty, and accordingly apprehensive of risk. Mucianus, seeing that Primus Antonius could not openly be crushed, heaped many praises on him in the Senate, and in secret loaded him with promises, holding out as a prize the government of Eastern Spain, then vacant after the departure of Cluvius Rufus. At the same time he lavished on his friends tribuneships and prefectures; and then, when he had filled the vain heart of Antonius with expectation and ambition, he destroyed his power by sending into winter quarters the Legio septima Gemina, the Twins' Seventh Legion, whose affection for Antonius was especially strong. Another part of the army was on its way to Germany. The Legio tertia Augusta, the Third Augustus Legion, old troops of Varus Arrius, the other man who was also cause of his apprehension, were sent back to Syria. Thus, all elements of potential disturbance being removed, the usual appearance of the capital, the laws, and the jurisdiction of the magistrates, were once more restored.

Domitian, the day he took his seat in the Senate, made a brief and measured speech referring to the absence of his father and brother, and to his own youth. He was graceful in bearing, and, his real character yet unknown, his frequent blushing passed for modesty. When he proposed restoring the imperial honors of Galba, Curtius Montanus moved that respect should also be paid to the memory of Piso. The Senate passed both motions, but that for Piso was not carried out. Commissioners were then appointed by lot,

to see to the restitution of property plundered during the war,
to examine and restore to their place the bronze tables of the laws, which had fallen down through age,
to free the Calendar from those grotesque additions which the sycophantic spirit of the time had imposed,
and to curtail public expenditure.

The day was marked by examples of public justice not free of distinction to individuals. The signal for vengeance on informers having been given, Junius Mauricus asked Domitian to give the Senate access to the imperial registers, from which they might learn what impeachments the several informers had proposed. Domitian answered, that in a matter of such importance the Emperor must be consulted.

The Senate, led by its principal members, then framed a form of oath, which was eagerly taken by all the magistrates and by the other senators, one by one, in the order in which they voted. They called the gods to witness, that nothing had been done by them to prejudice the safety of any person, and that they had gained no distinction or advantage by the ruin of Roman citizens. Great was the alarm, among those who felt the consciousness of guilt, and various their subtle ways of altering the words of the oath, to avoid swearing falsely before the gods. The Senate appreciated the scruple, but denounced the perjury. This public censure, as it might be called, fell with especial severity on men infamous for having practiced the lucrative trade of informer in the days of Nero.

At the next meeting of the Senate Domitian began by recommending that the wrongs, the resentments, and the terrible necessities of former times, should be forgotten, and Mucianus spoke at great length in favor of the informers. At the same time he admonished in gentle terms and in a tone of entreaty those who were reviving indictments, which they had before commenced and afterward dropped. The senators, when they found themselves opposed, relinquished the liberty which they had begun to exercise. Two banished men of senatorial rank, Octavius Sagitta and Antistius Sosianus, both of whom had been banished to islands of exile by a solemn decision of the Senate, and who had quit their places of banishment, had returned. Now, Sosianus and Sagitta were themselves utterly insignificant, even if they did return; but men dreaded the abilities of the informers, their wealth, and the power which they exercised in many sinister ways. A trial, conducted in the Senate according to ancient precedents, brought into harmony for a time the feelings of its members. And though others were permitted to return, these two were kept under the same penalty. That it might not be thought that the opinion of the Senate was disregarded, or that impunity was accorded to all acts done in the days of Nero, Mucianus sent them back to their islands. This did not mitigate the hatred felt against Mucianus by the Vitellianists.

Amidst all this the army almost mutinied. The troops disbanded by Vitellius, who had flocked to support Vespasian, asked leave to serve again in the Praetorian Guard, and the soldiers who had been selected from the legions with the same prospect now clamored for their promised pay. Even the Vitellianists could not be removed without much bloodshed. But the money needed to retain in the service so vast a body of men was immense. Mucianus entered the camp to examine more accurately individual claims. He assembled the victorious army, wearing their proper decorations and arms, with moderate intervals of space between the divisions; then the Vitellianists, who had capitulated at Bovillae, and the other troops of the party, who had been collected from the capital and its neighborhood, were brought forth almost naked. Mucianus ordered these men to be assembled apart, making the British, the German, and any other troops who belonged to other armies, take up separate positions. Their first view of their situation paralyzed them. They saw opposite them what seemed a hostile array, threatening them with javelin and sword. They saw themselves hemmed in, without arms, filthy and squalid. And when they began to be separated, some to be marched to one spot, and some to another, a thrill of terror ran through them all. The troops from Germany believed this separation marked them for slaughter. They embraced their fellow soldiers with terror. They invoked now Mucianus, now the absent Emperor, and, as a last resort, heaven and the gods, before Mucianus came forward, and, calling them “soldiers bound by the same oath and servants of the same Emperor”, stopped the groundless panic. The victorious army with approving shouts supported the tearful pleas of the vanquished. This terminated the proceedings for that day. But when Domitian addressed them a few days afterward in a tirade, they received him with more confidence. The land offered them, at no cost to the Senate, they rejected with contempt, and begged for regular service and pay. Their prayers, such genuine pleadings, were impossible to reject. They were therefore received into the Praetorian camp. Then those who had reached the prescribed age, or had served the proper number of campaigns, received an honorable discharge; others were dismissed for misconduct; but this was done by degrees and in detail, which is always the safest mode of reducing the united strength of a multitude. It is a fact that, whether suggested by real poverty or by a wish to give the appearance of it, a proposition passed the Senate to the effect that a loan of sixty million sesterces from private persons should be accepted.

At this time, in Britain additional important advances were made; the kingdom of Brigantia in northern England was incorporated in the province, and the pacification of Wales was completed. But in the Rhineland, the Batavian general Julius Civilis was gathering support for a revolution of independence from the tyranny of Rome. With rebels in Germany and Gaul being against the new regime, Domitian was eager to seek glory in suppressing the revolt, in an attempt to equal his brother Titus’s military exploits. But he was prevented from doing this by Mucianus.

Meanwhile, Titus spent the winter of January-February A.D. 70 touring the East with a splendid retinue of legionaries and prisoners, presumably to provide a public display of Flavian military prowess and to underscore the consequences of rebellion against his father by the punishments inflicted on Jewish prisoners. Here he revealed a sympathy for inflicting brutality and humiliation, most evident in the way in which Jews were thrown to wild beasts or forced to fight each other in shows for public enjoyment.

Titus began early in the year to rise in power and reputation, as armies and provinces competed with each other in demonstrating their loyal attachment to him. The son of Vespasian was thirty years old.

When spring approached, Titus marched his army from Alexandria on foot two and a half miles to Nicopolis. There they boarded some long ships, and sailed up the Nile as far as the city of Thmuis, which is situated east of the Nile between the Tanitic and Mendesian branches of the river. They disembarked and marched to Tanis, to Heracleopolis, and then to Pelusium where they rested. They crossed the mouths of the Nile and proceeded northeast over the desert, along the Mediterranean, and camped at the temple of the Casian Jupiter, and on the next day camped at Ostracine. Afterward they rested at Rhinocolura, and went to Raphia, which was his fourth station. He pitched camp at Gaza, and afterward came to Ascalon, then to Jamnia (which is Jabneh), and then to Joppa.

When Titus had thus marched his forces over that desert between Egypt and Syria, he came to Caesarea, having resolved to set his forces in order there before he began the war. When he had gotten together part of his forces, and ordered the rest to meet him at Jerusalem, he marched out of Caesarea. He had with him those three legions which had laid Judea waste under his father Vespasian, together with that Twelfth Legion, the Legio duodecima Fulminata, the Thunderbolt Twelfth Legion that had formerly been beaten with Cestius Gallus, but was otherwise remarkable for its valor, which marched on now with greater eagerness to avenge themselves on the Jews, remembering what they had previously suffered from them. He ordered the Fifth Legion Larks, Legio quinta Alaudae, also called the Fifth Legion Gallica, to meet him by going through Emmaus, and the Tenth Legion of the Sea Straits, Legio decima Fretensis, to go up by Jericho; he also moved himself, together with the rest of his forces; for besides these legions, there marched the auxiliaries that came from the kings, now more numerous than before, together with a considerable number that came to his assistance from Syria.

The two thousand men who had been selected from these four legions and sent with Mucianus to Italy had been replaced with those soldiers from the armies of Alexandria who came with Titus out of Egypt. There also followed him three thousand drawn from those who guarded the river Euphrates; Tiberius Alexander also came, a Friend of his, most valuable, both for his good will to him and for his prudence. He had formerly been governor of Alexandria, but was now thought worthy to be general of Titus’s army, for he had most recently been the first who encouraged Vespasian to accept his new dominion, and joined himself to him with great fidelity when things were uncertain, and when, in their view, the goddess Fortune had not yet declared for him. He also followed Titus as a counselor, very useful to him in this war, both by his age and skill in such affairs. With him also was Josephus, formerly a prisoner, released by Vespasian when he was acclaimed emperor, and sent by him, together with Titus, to the siege of Jerusalem.

Now, as Titus was on his march into the enemy’s country, the auxiliaries sent by the kings marched first, having with them all the other auxiliaries; after them those who were to prepare the roads and measure out the camp; then came the commander’s baggage, followed by the other soldiers, who were completely armed to support them; then came Titus himself, having with him another select body; and then the pikemen; after whom came the cavalry belonging to that legion. All these came before the siege engines; and after these engines, the tribunes and the leaders of the cohorts, with their select bodies; after these came the trumpeters belonging to the ensigns with the eagle; next to these came the main body of the army in their ranks, every rank six deep; after them came their baggage with the servants belonging to every legion; and last came the mercenaries, and those who guarded them brought up the rear.

see notes



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Ad Gloriam Dei, 31 January 2019—developed by Michael Paul Heart and the editors of Conservapedia.
Revised on the Octave of the Ascension of the Lord, Thursday 28 May 2020, by Michael Paul Heart